One of my guilty pleasures is reality ghost shows like GHOST HUNTERS and MY GHOST STORY. Saturday night, A&E had a marathon of a show I’ve never seen called AMERICAN HAUNTING.
In each episode, some poor family has the show’s cameras put all over their house to record ghostly happenings, various experts like mediums and researchers are brought in, the violence ratchets up to the point that they realize something a lot meaner than an annoyed and dead former owner is around, then an exorcist, priest, or psychic exorcist comes in and kicks out the evil thing.
Most of these shows are filmed in the darkness and even the filming in daylight tends to be in dark tones, but after the evil whatever has been removed and the miasma on dark nastiness is lifted, the outside and inside of the house are shown in much brighter light.
At the end of one show, the family is sent away while the psychic exorcist is at work, then they return. As expected, the sun is bright, and the house is filled with light, but very unexpected was the presence of two golden retrievers waiting for their family to come home.
Since there had been no golden retrievers present during the filming, I was flummoxed. Other episodes had cats wandering around and an occasional small dog as well as dogs in outside pens. Why hadn’t they shown the golden retrievers?
I thought about it for a while and realized that it’s hard to think of evil in the presence of golden retrievers, the dog equivalent of dolphins or friendly angels, so the producers of this show had them removed from the house during the filming.
This got me thinking about writing and how most writers fail to use images and metaphors that offer such a visceral reaction. Even when a writer thinks about creating dark images during the unhappy times in the story, she may fail to offer light images when the unhappiness has been banished.
Sure, some images like sunlight and golden retrievers are a bit cliched, but that’s because they are honest images that convey emotion.
Consider this the next time you are rewriting those scenes after things change for the better or worse.
For more information on how to use images, I suggest my article on archetypes.
NOTE: My website is still down. Curse you, Dotster!